Legal: Underestimated fetal size results in Erb's palsy

July 1, 2008

Underestimated fetal size results in Erb's palsy.

In 2002, a New Jersey woman underwent an ultrasound at 39 weeks' gestation and the estimated size of the fetus by the radiologist was 8.5 lb. One week later she was delivered by a certified nurse midwife, a shoulder dystocia occurred, and the infant has an Erb's palsy. The birthweight was 12 lb.

The patient sued the radiologist claiming the size of the fetus was negligently underestimated, causing the attending physician to plan a vaginal delivery instead of a cesarean section. She also alleged that the CNM used too much force during delivery after the shoulder dystocia was encountered.

A $1.2 million settlement was reached, with 60% to be paid by the CNM and 40% by the radiologist.